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Summary

What is the role of the writer? Prophet? High priest of art? Court jester? Or witness to the real world? 

Looking back on her own childhood and writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain - or excuse! - their activities, looking at what costumes they have assumed, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the title: if a writer is to be seen as "gifted", who is doing the giving and what are the terms of the gift? Atwood's wide reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences, both in Canada and elsewhere. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature. 

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Quebec, Ontario, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. Throughout her 30 years of writing, Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Hew novel The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. She is the author of more than 25 volumes of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include Alias Grace (1996), The Robber Bride (1994), Cat's Eye (1988), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), Surfacing (1972) and The Edible Woman (1970). Acclaimed for her talent for portraying both personal lives and worldly problems of universal concern, Atwood's work has been published in more than 35 languages, including Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic, and Estonian.

©2002 O.W. Toad Ltd 2002 (P)2020 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about On Writers and Writing

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Disappointing

If you’re looking for a book in which Margaret Atwood gives you some of her own personal gems of wisdom on How To Write, then you will be disappointed and I advise you to stick with such books as Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.

This is more a collection of musings.

I’m nearly at the end of this audiobook and I honestly can’t think of a single concept worth remembering. That may be down to me not connecting with the material, in which case I hope you find what I didn’t.

In any case, the area where this book really falls down is the narration, which was already challenging after the first 20 seconds. She may be a skilled writer, but she is NOT a skilled orator. With just five levels of monotonous delivery, the fact that she was chosen to read this audiobook makes it a tedious endurance test.

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Good content, but didn't love the narration.

Whilst the contents of this book is good, a great author does not always equal a great narrator. A professional reader would have greatly improved this work in my view.

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Atwood at her distilled best

Thoughtful, provocative and quietly humorous treatment of a huge subject. Atwood's descriptive powers fascinate me.

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A must for all Atwood fans

Love all her work. very informative and delivered with the authors dry warm witt

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Margaret is amazing

I loved this, I throughly enjoy her understanding that there is no prescription for becoming a great writer. her choice of examples are spot on and very much food for thought as a writer with a little W

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Educational

A must read. Beautifully read and frighteningly honest. As I approach my Masters in Creative Writing, I now do so with trepidation, but more importantly, knowledge.

Added boon was the fact that it is narrated by Margaret Atwood herself.

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  • Brandy Ringleb
  • 11-01-21

l just love Margaret Atwood.

I really feel fortunate to get to benefit from Margaret Atwood's years worth of reading, and getting to hear tons of stories, prime and pieces through her lens. She really has a fascia way of looking at things.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Anna Forcey
  • 10-09-21

One of the Greats

I read a lot of craft books (books on writing), and this one surprised me with Atwood's simple honesty and gruff charisma. She is very candid, well read, and mixes her thoughts on writing with a multitude of relatable anecdotes. If you write or are a fan of her work, definitely pick this one up. Her narration is also wonderful - it is very special when an author voices their own work.

5 people found this helpful

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  • J. S. Harbour
  • 25-06-21

ponderous narration

a professional narrator should have been used. the others monotone voice at half speed is intolerable. if her mind works as slowly as her voice then she must take a very very long time to write a book.

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  • Layne Hood
  • 04-03-21

Enlightened

Atwood's reading voice seems almost monotone & droll. And then very quickly her humor enchants; as does her encyclopedic knowledge of literature & the writing craft. Invaluable!

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  • Harry
  • 20-09-21

disappointed.

Picked up this audio book because of its title, "on writers and writing". I never read her other work (and, I never will, at this point). the book was not what I expected. I couldn't care less how old she was when Elvis Presley debuted. the first part was pretty much pointless ramblings. I couldn't continue. one thing I learned from this book is, how not to write. that's why I give 2 stars.

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  • Anniken
  • 19-06-21

The thoughts and life of Atwood

This book is a mix of biography for the author as well as thoughts and ideas about the writer and writing. While I found a lot of it thought provoking, I ultimately did myself a disservice by listening to it as an audiobook.
I can't deny that Atwood has a way with words, but it's a way that doesn't quite work for me, unfortunately, and combine that with my general need of being able to flip back and forth in craft books, I found myself being lost more often than not with this book. I even fell asleep at one point.

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  • Ella
  • 12-03-22

amazing book

amazing book, I need to reread some of my old books with a new perspective/light

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  • Kirsty
  • 11-02-22

Fantastic!

I have read (almost) all of Margaret Atwood’s fiction, so when I found ‘On Writers and Writing’, I was very excited. I had some expectation of what would happen when I listened. I was wrong. This is a lecture series read by Margaret Atwood. There is a live interview at the end. Each section delves into writing and writers from different perspectives, which is fantastic! Since I came to the text with expectations that were not met I was initially confused and kept expecting something else. When I realized what I was listening to, and that I was an idiot, I started from the beginning again. Thank god. Because this is, as I say, brilliant. Listen, listen properly, stop messing around and dreaming. Wake up and listen to Margaret Atwood because she knows what she’s talking about.

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  • Rocky Sunico
  • 30-04-22

A fulfilling experience for writers and readers

I enjoyed Margaret Atwood's Masterclass, thus I was really looking forward to this audiobook. But given how I typically listen to books while jogging and such, this may not be the best content for that sort of activity.

This is actually a series of lectures she had given that had been brought together and restructured into a book. This means a lot of different stories and analogies based on her experiences as a writer. She has a lot of interesting things to say as a writer, as a woman, and as a human being and I enjoyed this from start to finish. It's not entirely biographical but you'll still pick up nuggets from her life as part of how she explains different ideas and concepts.

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  • Sarge
  • 02-08-21

I could have continued listening.

I could have continued listening but time ran out. I always appreciate it when the author reads their own work. Atwood’s insight is so precise and her references to other works not only brings the listener a broad spectrum of creative viewpoints but illustrates the broad foundation of literature that she draws from. The closing interview was audio shock after swimming lazily to the flow of Atwood’s voice. It took me a while to come around but I did eventually. I enjoyed my time.